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. the warning was aimed at defense department workers at the pentagon and around the world. secretary panetta sent them a written message, as he left for a nato defense ministers meeting in brussels. in it, he said there are limited options for coping with the looming across-the-board cuts. and, he said: >> on our civilians it will be catastrophic. >> woodruff: within hours, top pentagon officials were out, saying employees could lose one day of work per week for 22 weeks. civilians will experience a 20 percent decrease in their pay between late april and september. as a result, many families will be forced to make difficult decisions on where their financial obligations lie. >> reporter: the furloughs could start in late april and save roughly $5 billion. uniformed personnel at war would be exempt, but in a letter to congress, panetta wrote that the spending cuts will slow training and the procurement of weapons. the result, he said, will be a hollow force. the nation's top military leader had said as much last week at a senate hearing on the automatic cuts. chair of the joint chiefs of staf
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